Pakistan, which is a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), came undersealed attack by India on April 28 at an important high-table discussion.
Defense Minister Rajnath Singh called upon the SCO member states to collectively work towards eliminating terrorism in all forms and fix accountability on those who aid or fund such activities. This should be the “top most priority”, the Defence Minister asserted.
Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif skipped the key meeting of SCO countries’ Defense Ministers hosted by India.
Addressing the Defence Ministers of SCO member countries here, Rajnath Singh asserted that terrorist acts or support to terrorist activities is a crime against humanity and peace cannot coexist with this menace.
He expressed concern over the radicalisation of youth, terming it a major security challenge and obstacle in the path of socio-economic progress of society.
“If we want to make the SCO a stronger and more credible international organisation, our top-most priority should be to effectively deal with terrorism,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said.
“If a nation shelters terrorists, it not only poses a threat to others, but for itself too,” the Minister said, adding that radicalisation of youth is a cause for concern not only from the point of view of security but is also a major obstacle in the path of socio-economic progress of society.
At the end of the deliberations, all the SCO member countries signed a protocol, expressing their collective will to make the region secure, peaceful and prosperous.
Addressing the media after the meeting, Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane said all the member nations arrived at a consensus on several areas of cooperation, including dealing with terrorism, security of vulnerable populations in various countries as well as Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief.
The Minister described the SCO as an evolved and strong regional organisation, underlining that India views it as an important entity to promote defence cooperation among member states.
He urged the member states to take forward the age-old cultural and civilisational linkages in line with changing times, emphasising that the ties have enriched the countries economically and culturally for centuries. He called for a secure, stable and prosperous region that helps improve the quality of life of the people of each member nation.
Defence Ministers of China, Russia, Iran, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan attended the meeting.
Needless to add, Pakistan is often called the epicentre of terrorism. It is also part of the SCO grouping, and Malik Ahmad Khan, Special Assistant to the Pakistan Prime Minister on Defence, virtually addressed the meeting.
“All member states were unanimous in their statements that terrorism, in all its forms, must be condemned and eliminated,” Indian Defence Secretary Aramane said, exuding confidence that areas identified for cooperation will be acted upon in the times to come and India, as the SCO chair, will play a pivotal role.
Interestingly, though Asif skipped the meeting on April 28, Pakistan has announced that its Foreign Minister, Bilawal Bhutto, would attend the SCO Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Goa.
Elaborating on the Indian vision of a robust regional cooperation framework, Rajnath Singh said that this should “mutually respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all member States by taking care of their legitimate interests.”
“New Delhi strives to further bolster trust and cooperation among the members of the SCO as it believes in maintaining peace and security based on the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations,” he asserted.
The 3,488 km long Line of Actual Control with China is tense while both nations have deployed troops in Eastern Ladakh. There is precautionary deployment all across the LAC.
Rajnath called for concerted efforts by the SCO member states so that the region, with limitless possibilities in the multilateral world, shifts to the mindset of ‘great gain from win-win paradigm’ from the ‘great game of zero sum, win-lose paradigm’.
“India has always followed the principle of ‘Let us walk together & move forward together’. Every era has a zeitgeist (defining idea). The zeitgeist of the present era is ‘Win-win cooperation for the great gain’,” he said.
The Indian Defense Minister also touched upon the two defence-related activities launched by India as the SCO chair to increase interoperability among member states. These are a workshop on ‘Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR)’, and a seminar on ‘defence think tanks of SCO countries’. Both events witnessed enthusiastic participation from all SCO countries.
Rajnath Singh also elaborated on the concept of ‘SECURE’ floated by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi during the SCO summit in Qingdao, China, in 2018. He stated that every alphabet of the word ‘SECURE’ reflects India’s commitment towards the multi-dimensional welfare of the region. S – Security of citizens, E – Economic development for all, C – Connecting the region, U – Uniting the people, R – Respect for Sovereignty and Integrity and E – Environmental protection.
Rajnath meets his Russian counterpart
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held a bilateral meeting with his Russian counterpart General Sergei K Shoigu, on the sidelines of the SCO Defence Ministers’ meeting.
Both leaders discussed wide-ranging issues of bilateral defence cooperation, including military-to-military ties and industrial partnerships.
They also discussed the Russian defence industry’s participation in the ‘Make in India’ initiatives and ways to provide further impetus.
“The two ministers also discussed matters on regional peace and security. They expressed satisfaction over the continued trust and mutual respect between the two countries, particularly in defence and reiterated their commitment towards strengthening the partnership,” officials said.